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Tiny ancient fish unlocks secrets of Earth's early vertebrates

Published on Jun 12, 2014 7:12 AM
 
An artist illustration of Metaspriggina, which lived about 514 to 505 million years ago during the Cambrian period is shown in this handout image. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - This is certainly not just another fish tale.

A tiny jawless fish that lived more than half a billion years ago is providing scientists with a treasure trove of information about the very dawn of vertebrate life on Earth.

Researchers on Wednesday described about 100 fossil specimens of the fish unearthed at the Burgess Shale site in the Canadian Rockies and other locales, many exquisitely preserved showing the primitive body structures that would later evolve into jaws.

The fish, Metaspriggina, lived about 515 to 500 million years ago amid the astonishing flourishing of complex life during the Cambrian Period. While two fragmentary specimens had been found previously, the new ones revealed unprecedented detail about one of the earliest known vertebrates.

 
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